Downtown debate

Mixed reaction from business owners, visitors over loitering

Published on July 17, 2014

TRURO – Shelley Austin has witnessed an interesting scene she hopes she won’t see again.

“There was a guy on a bench for three hours” last week, Austin, owner of Sea Shell Design on Inglis Place, told the Truro Daily News.

“Right across the street from here. He was sleeping and falling off. I was thinking, ‘that looks awful,’” said Austin, who said loitering is “definitely an issue” in the downtown.

“People hang out all day. It makes you nervous,” said Austin, who has had her business in downtown Truro for 17 years and has no intention of relocating.

She added it may be difficult to correct the situation because it’s hard to “tell the difference between loitering all day and who is just hanging out.”

The Town of Truro has a “public places” bylaw, which states loitering means “to stand idly around or move slowly about or to linger or spend time idly or to impede the passage of other persons.”

The bylaw indicates the penalty is punishable by a fine of “not less than $50 and not more than $1,000 and to imprisonment of not more than 30 days in default of payment.”

Truro’s Samantha Dowe visits the downtown “everyday” but she doesn’t consider it loitering.

“I don’t see how it’s loitering … I’m buying coffee, sitting and socializing. I’m here a couple of hours every day but I’m moving around and not sitting in front of one place.

“I’m not picking fights or breaking windows,” said Dowe.

The Truro Daily News randomly visited the downtown a number of times over a few days but did not witness obvious “loitering” as defined by the bylaw, during those outings. As we spoke with a number of people, opinions continued to vary.

Moments Boutique owner Sharon Geldart said she sees “very little” loitering.

“It’s very safe here and it’s a welcoming and vibrant downtown,” Geldart said.

One woman, who wished to remain anonymous but admits to working downtown near Tim Hortons, said if loitering is an issue, it’s not a major concern.

“It’s probably an issue but I’m in the store most of the day. The odd customer will talk about it once in a while but I don’t see it in front of the store.”

Alma Zalo disagrees. She said there “are a lot of people who like to hang around … sometimes it’s excessive and sometimes they are just shopping but I’ve seen fights. At nights I’m nervous but I (just) try to avoid the wrong crowd.”

Being aware of your surroundings seems to be the message other customers embrace.

“There are bikers and skateboarders near Tim Hortons and it’s intimidating at times,” said one woman, who remained anonymous. “They are just standing there and you have to go around them, five or six people at a time. I avoid it by crossing the street but I’m sure there are some people, a small percentage, who stay away.”

Another resident, Gail Rusthon of Bible Hill, however, said, “I go to Tim Hortons often and I don’t think loitering is a problem, but maybe I’m not coming when it’s happening.”

Truro Police Service’s deputy Jim Flemming said the department doesn’t get “a whole lot” of calls regarding loitering.

“Maybe once a week,” he said, adding it’s difficult to define who is loitering and who isn’t.

mchiasson@trurodaily.com

Twitter: tdnMonique

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